Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sticking My Nose In

I'm probably about to upset a lot of my friends and family, and while I accept that as a potential side-effect of this post, it is by no means the intention of it.

Last week was really awesome in my little world. Starting about Tuesday, every time I glanced at Facebook I was overwhelmed by the waves of support and love coming from my peeps because my entire newsfeed looked like this:

Every little red equal sign (or variation thereof) just made me grin from ear to ear. I was impressed not only with the willingness of my (particularly straight, particularly Mormon) friends to publicly stand up with me and so many others to show support for marriage equality, but also the amazing creativity and humor and love that was flowing freely through the interwebs.

Love. It's a thing. And kind of an important one, if you ask me.

Before I get to my point, let me state a few things for the record: First, I haven't considered myself "Mormon" for years. I stopped attending church nearly a decade ago and it's been at least that long since I've watched or listened to or paid even a smidgen of attention to a General Conference address. I was annoyed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints put so much of their time and resources and funding into the Prop 8 battle that happened in California a few years ago, but it wasn't *my* tithing money, so I mostly kept my mouth shut. Usually when I hear about LDS Church leaders encouraging members to "love the sinner, not the sin" or skirting the "gay" issue by suggesting that same sex attraction is not a sin but acting on it is, I roll my eyes and go on my merry way. Not my church. Not my problem.

I grew up in Utah. I was raised LDS. Many of my friends and family are Mormon. Yesterday, when it was announced that a Mormon temple will be opened in Cedar City, UT, as far as my Facebook newsfeed was concerned, it was bigger than Grumpy Cat and George Takei combined. ("Did you hear Halle Berry's pregnant?" "Halle who? Who cares? They're opening a TEMPLE IN CEDAR CITY!!" "Hasn't there been a temple in St. George for years?" "Well, yeah, but that's, like, 45 whole minutes away...") Which is to say, whether I'm paying direct attention or not, I hear about stuff that happens during General Conference. (My mom texted me to tell me about the Cedar City temple. It made me giggle. She very rarely texts and when she does, the messages are often monosyllabic. I therefore surmised it was a big deal to her and appreciated her thoughtfulness in keeping me in the loop.)

So, today, between clever memes and witty observations and the occasional "things I'm doing today" post, I came across this article in the Salt Lake Tribune:
Just because the nation may change its laws to "tolerate legalized acts of immorality" does not make those acts any less spiritually damaging, senior apostle Boyd K. Packer said Saturday morning at the LDS Church’s 183rd Annual General Conference.
"The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality," Packer said, "does not reduce the serious spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God’s law of chastity." 
"Tolerance is a virtue, but, like all virtues, when exaggerated it transforms itself into a vice," said the 88-year-old Packer, speaking from his chair rather than from the pulpit. "We need to be careful of the ‘tolerance trap’ so that we are not swallowed up in it."

The article is careful to note that he did not directly mention gay marriage or homosexuality. Because, you know, after Wednesday and Thursday of this week, no one is going to have any idea what he meant by "weakening of the laws of the land".

But the part that really stood out in my mind was the notion that tolerance can ever possibly be a vice. I'm not going to get all tied up in why "tolerance" isn't all that great anyway...

(but here's a video of someone explaining it pretty well)

...but rather I want to chat for a minute about how a man who many of my loved ones believe to be an apostle and mouthpiece of God can stand up in front of a group of Christians and say (essentially), "Love thy neighbor, but make sure you're not loving them too much."


I must have missed the part in the scriptures (and I'm going to go ahead and include the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price when I say "scriptures") where it says, "love everyone, but not too much. Because, as you know, too much virtue can be a vice."

First, tolerance isn't all that much of a virtue to begin with (see video above), but it's something. It's maybe enough to get you to not punch someone who doesn't share your belief system. But to insinuate that it could potentially be a trap? What happened to "love thy neighbor as thyself"? Isn't the parable about the Good Samaritan about a bunch of people who were "tolerant" and one guy who probably would have changed his profile picture last week? (And I don't know about you, but I was taught that we should emulate the Samaritan.)

President Packer, growing up, I remember enjoying your talks. Overall, I liked this one too. Your poem was cute. I liked the way you tied in the story about the snakes and the finches and related it to the necessity of a strong family as the best way to protect children. It distresses me that you would rather some family units were not afforded the same governmental protections that your own family has enjoyed for decades because the composition of that family doesn't jive with your narrow definition of "family". And, quite honestly, I think the suggestion that one can be "too tolerant" to the point where tolerance is a "trap" is deplorable.

I rather prefer to live in my little world of love, hoping that someday tolerance will bubble over into outright acceptance. That someday, the laws of the land will encourage families of every flavor without infringing on the rights of any person to make fun of marriages like those of Brittany Spears and Kim Kardashian. That down the road, when I have a family of my own, my kids won't be pitied because they don't have a traditional "dad" around to teach them things like how to throw a ball or put the toilet seat down, but rather envied because their moms love them to pieces and taught them how to throw a ball anyway.